An Eau Claire man left a New Richmond business holding the bag after selling it more than $16,000 worth of stolen lawn mowers, according to charges filed in St. Croix County Circuit Court.

Prosecutors charged 36-year-old Ryan M. Sturz with one count of felony theft by false representation Nov. 16.

According to a criminal complaint:

New Richmond police were asked by Chippewa County authorities in July to assist with a theft case involving four stolen lawn mowers. The machines, stolen from businesses in Chippewa Falls, were believed to be at St. Croix Motor Sports in New RIchmond, where they'd been sold.

The suspect, Sturz, had bought the lawn mowers by writing bad checks totalling more than $37,000 for all four, plus some other merchandise.

Officers spoke with the St. Croix Motor Sports owner, who confirmed buying all four lawn mowers from Sturz on July 18 for $16,100. He later learned from his bank that the checks he'd written to Sturz had cleared.

Staff at the New Richmond store had attempted to confirm if the mowers were stolen, but the inquiry revealed nothing suspicious at the time. The owner said Sturz "had a pretty good story about why he was getting rid of the mowers," the complaint states.

Sturz told St. Croix Motor Sports officials he had a landscaping company called Top Notch Lawn Tree and Snow Services. The company was going under because he couldn't find reliable help, so he was forced to sell the equipment, Sturz told St. Croix Motor Sports.

Police interviewed Sturz Sept. 14 in Eau Claire County Jail, where he was being held on a probation hold. He eventually admitted to selling the stolen mowers in New Richmond.

"Ryan described himself as a real piece of work at that time and he sold the mowers to support his cocaine and drinking addiction," the complaint states, which goes on to note that the proceeds were spent on a 2007 Chevy Tahoe.

Sturz is charged in Chippewa County with one count of theft by false representation and seven counts of issuing worthless checks. He also faces worthless check charges in Dunn County

His first appearance on the St. Croix County charge is set for Dec. 20.